The 50 Greatest Movie Moments of 2019

We don’t always remember entire movies – we remember the moments. We recall that one glorious shot. We think of that telling glance, that hilarious one-liner, that shocking action scene. Heck, we sometimes remember a great moment from a bad movie more often than an entire competent movie. And with another year in cinema behind us, it’s time to look back. We’re finally and officially closing the book on 2019 with our look at the most moving, most funny, most thrilling, and most baffling moments from the previous year in cinema.

Note: This post contains major spoilers for dozens of movies released in 2019. Proceed with caution.

50. The Umbrella is Made Out of Daggers in Shadow

Hollywood has been trying to capture that special quality of anime on the big screen for years, but all they needed to do was give Zhang Yimou a bunch of umbrellas made out of daggers. Yimou makes a glorious return to the wuxia movie with Shadow, a stunning monochromatic epic. But the subdued color palette only unleashed Yimou’s most violent and over-the-top action yet, that culminates in a brutal battle between unlikely warrior Jingzhou (Deng Chao) and the infamously unbeatable general Yang Cang (Hu Jun). The two engage in a dignified duel, Yang armed with a spear and Jingzhou armed with an umbrella that slowly unfolds to be revealed to be made entirely of giant razor-sharp daggers. It would make for an epic enough fight scene if it wasn’t soon revealed that an invading army armed with these exact umbrellas were sneaking into the city, using the umbrellas to slide through the paved streets to avoid the onslaught of arrows. It’s hard to describe this moment without resorting to screams of, “It’s awesome!!” but it truly is flat-out awesome. (Hoai-Tran Bui)

49. It’s All a Video Game in Serenity

There is a before the twist in Serenity, and there’s an after. And after, you are thoroughly changed. Perhaps it’s because of the sheer audacity to turn a hammy neo-noir into a sci-fi thriller, or perhaps it’s because of the way that director Steven Knight fundamentally misunderstands how video games work. Either way, Serenity offered one of the most truly bizarre and unexpected things to happen on the big screen, and something has to be said for that. The twist takes place midway through the movie as Matthew McConaughey’s fishing boat captain Baker Dill is being chased by a strange suited man (Jeremy Strong). The man finally catches up to him to reveal that Baker is not a human being with a weird fixation on a giant tuna, but a character in a computer game designed by his son after the real-life Baker (actually named John Mason) died in Iraq. Even crazier: the son was using the game to act out the murder of his abusive step-father. In a fishing video game. Yes, this is a movie that really happened. (Hoai-Tran Bui)

48. Glasgow (No Place Like Home) in Wild Rose

“I should have said ‘thank you’ a thousand miles ago.” That’s just one of the lines which shoot straight to the audience’s hearts in the final, cathartic song of Wild Rose. Jessie Buckley’s Scottish country singer Rose-Lynn has spent the entire film constructing emotional barriers and making excuses for her behavior, but she takes a sledgehammer to all of that in one last moving, redemptive, emotional song – one which serves as an apology to her long-suffering mother and beautifully completes Rose-Lynn’s character arc. (Ben Pearson)

47. The Lightsaber Pass in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

In a movie that left most of the SlashFilm staff (with the exception of Peter Sciretta) underwhelmed, frustrated, and disappointed, this one particular moment we agreed was simply too cool to ignore. With a set-up that began brewing in The Last Jedi and pays off her spectacularly here, Rey stealthily passes a lightsaber to Ben Solo when he’s outnumbered by the Knights of Ren, but she does it through the Force. Aside from how cool it is to see Rey and Ben use their Force connection in this way, it’s the quick little shrug that Ben Solo does before he starts swinging that lightsaber that really makes this scene that much more awesome. (Ethan Anderton)

46. Keanu Reeves in Always Be My Maybe

The year of Keanu Reeves peaked with his hilariously meta appearance as himself in the Netflix rom-com Always Be My Maybe. The John Wick actor makes a sudden unexpected appearance midway through Always Be My Maybe, and every minute that he’s onscreen is some of the funniest cinema made in 2019. Introduced as Sasha’s (Ali Wong) celebrity date, Reeves is pretentious, his oblivious, and he’s completely, hilariously self-centered — the kind of star who will sincerely whisper “I miss your thighs” one minute and cry at the sound of time another, before later picking a fight just for the thrill of the rush. The whole thing is made even more hilarious by the well-known fact that Reeves is one of the nicest and humblest celebrities out there, so seeing him play a hipster asshole is comedy gold. (Hoai-Tran Bui)

45. The Moviemaking Montage in Dolemite is My Name

Eddie Murphy’s big comeback arrived courtesy of Dolemite Is My Name. And along with a wonderful story about following dreams and giving the underrepresented a voice in cinema, this movie is also a love letter to cinema. There’s magic that comes from the big screen, and that magic is even more captivating when it comes from a bunch of people connecting and collaborating because they want to make something great, even if it ends up being something as silly as Dolemite. Nowhere is that more clear than in an extensive montage of the making of Dolemite, and it’s a sequence that’s full of laughs, a true independent spirit, and a love of filmmaking in its most raw form. (Ethan Anderton)

44. The Final Showdown With Sensei in The Art of Self-Defense

The Art of Self-Defense is a film about how toxic, idiotic and powerful people seize control of young, vulnerable men. And late Riley Stearns’ pitch-black, mesmerizing comedy, Jesse Eisenberg’s Casey has had enough. His karate instructor, the gun-hating Sensei (Alessandro Nivola) has burned his life to the ground, fundamentally destroying him as a person in the name of his nebulous plan to reshape others in his monstrous mold. So Casey does the only thing he can do: he challenges Sensei to a fight to the death. Seeing no challenge coming from his weak pupil, Sensei obliges…only for Casey to pull a pistol and shoot his tormenter to death. It’s simultaneously a crowd-pleasing victory, the bleakest joke possible (its seeds are planted from the opening scenes), and an act of horrifying violence. It’s perfect. (Jacob Hall)

43. The Nymphomaniac Joke in Good Boys

“She’s a nymphomaniacSomeone who has sex on land and sea.” The perfect juxtaposition of youthful innocence and youthful ignorance. The perfect representation of a kid who knows a little too much and nothing at all. I did not laugh harder at a single joke in 2019. (Jacob Hall)

42. The Shazam Family Assembles in Shazam!

Billy Batson has a hard time accepting his place in the world, and as an orphan, he never really lets himself get close to anybody. But his life changes dramatically when he’s endowed with the powers of a wizard, allowing him to transform into an adult superhero called Shazam. Soon he realizes that his new makeshift family is better than the one that chose to abandon him, and their connection becomes even stronger when he transfers some of his magical superhero power to all of his adopted brothers and sisters, giving us an entire Shazam family. It’s a moment that feels straight out of the nostalgic family adventure movies of the 1980s and even 1990s, and the cast pulls it off remarkably. Plus, when’s the last time we saw a proper family of superheroes dealing with some nasty monsters? It’s just good clean blockbuster fun. (Ethan Anderton)

41. Mr. Rogers Plays Piano in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood 

In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Tom Hanks’ Mr. Rogers spends the bulk of the film seeming saintly, calm, and all together wonderful. Time and time again, people close to Fred Rogers remind cynical reporter Lloyd Vogel that Fred isn’t a saint. But Lloyd, and by the extension, the audience, don’t believe it. At one point, Lloyd asks Fred if he ever gets angry – and what does he do about it. Fred replies that he does, and adds that there are many things you can do when you’re angry – like play all the low notes of a piano at once. Lloyd shrugs Fred’s explanation off, but at the very end of the film, in the final frame, we check in with Fred. He’s alone in a dark studio, sitting at a piano. The camera pans up, pointing down on him. After a beat, he slams all those low notes at once. No one is around to hear it, but he’s human after all. (Chris Evangelista)

40. The Farewell and Reunion in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World brings the DreamWorks Animation franchise to an end. It also brings the end of the beautiful friendship between a boy and his dragon. The viking leader Hiccup and his Night Fury dragon Toothless say goodbye when each of them realize that all of the once-feared dragons will be much safer in the newly discovered hidden paradise. But it’s not goodbye forever, because years later, after Hiccup and Toothless have started families of their own, they reunite, and their kids get to meet each other too. These two will never truly say farewell, and the movie serves as the perfect lesson for kids and adults alike that no matter how much we grow or how much time we spend apart, there always be friends that never leave our hearts. (Ethan Anderton)

39. Taking One for the Team in Fyre

“I got to his office fully prepared to suck his dick.” It was a line uttered by a real person in Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, a documentary on the infamously failed Fyre Festival, which proved to be the forerunner of this year’s “eat the rich” stories. Fyre Festival event producer Andy King was the poor employee who spoke this viral anecdote about his willingness to give sexual favors to a Bahamian customs officer in order to get enough Evian water for the festival, becoming an internet sensation for weeks after the Netflix documentary dropped and a baffling example of the lengths people go to for their jobs. (Hoai-Tran Bui)

38. Time Runs Out for the Family in Ready or Not

In a movie that was already filled with ruthless deaths and plenty of blood, the ending of Ready or Not makes good on the promise of the batshit crazy Le Domas family being destroyed if they don’t complete a sacrificial wedding ritual as mandated by their ancestor in exchange for their little family empire. They need to kill their family’s new bride before the sun rises the next morning. After a night of bloodshed, when the family’s time is up to complete the ritual, and the bride is still alive, it seems like the curse wasn’t actually real. But then suddenly, each of the family members begins to explode in a spectacularly grusesome and bloody fashion. (Ethan Anderton)

37. Opening Dance Number from Climax

A dance through hell, Gaspar Noé’s utterly insane Climax begins with an overture of sorts – a seemingly never-ending dance number where all the characters in the film strut, and spin, and spiral, and crawl, and kick, and flail. It goes on, and on, and on, to the point where you begin to feel almost feverish – as if your mind might break at any moment. No other opening scene of the year so perfectly sets the audience up for the experience to come.  (Chris Evangelista)

36. Time Rewinds in The Perfection

Richard Shepard’s The Perfection is not the film you think it is. Just when you think it’s an erotic thriller about two musicians who hook-up halfway around the world, those two young women go on a road trip through rural China where one contracts a seemingly deadly parasite that starts to destroy her body and brain…and then her companion tells her to the only way to save her life is to chop her arm off. What?! The movie knows that’s exactly what you’re thinking, because the action then rewinds, revealing how this entire experience was faked by Allison Williams’ Charlotte for reasons yet unknown. It’s the moment where you realize that this film isn’t playing around and it sets the stage for some of the craziest and gnarliest twists we’ve seen in recent memory. (Jacob Hall)

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